Ne­tanyahu ad­mits Is­raeli jets struck tar­gets in­side Syria to hin­der Iran

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Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu ad­mit­ted the Is­raeli mil­i­tary was be­hind a mis­sile at­tack late on Fri­day near Da­m­as­cus.

Is­rael has struck Ira­nian, Hezbol­lah and Syr­ian tar­gets in the neigh­bour­ing state on dozens of oc­ca­sions, al­though Tel Aviv rarely ad­mits car­ry­ing out spe­cific at­tacks.

“Only in the last 36 hours did the Air Force strike tar­gets in Syria and we have proven that we will stop the set­tle­ment of Iran in Syria,” Mr Ne­tanyahu said at a Cab­i­net meet­ing yes­ter­day. “The ac­cu­mu­la­tion of re­cent at­tacks shows that we’re more de­ter­mined than ever to act against Iran in Syria, just as we promised.”

Syr­ian state me­dia said the mil­i­tary’s air de­fences shot down Is­raeli mis­siles.

A Syr­ian war mon­i­tor in Bri­tain said two ar­eas host­ing mem­bers of Ira­nian forces and Le­banese Shi­ite move­ment Hezbol­lah were tar­geted.

“We have op­er­ated with im­pres­sive suc­cess in thwart­ing Iran from es­tab­lish­ing a mil­i­tary foothold in Syria ... the mil­i­tary has struck hun­dreds of times against Ira­nian and Hezbol­lah tar­gets,” Mr Ne­tanyahu said.

In Fe­bru­ary last year, Syr­ian anti-air­craft mis­siles downed an Is­raeli F-16 car­ry­ing out a raid over Da­m­as­cus.

The jet crashed in north­ern Is­rael and both pi­lots ejected.

It was the first Is­raeli jet to be downed since 1982 and Hezbol­lah hailed it as the start of “a new strate­gic phase”.

Is­rael has un­til now gen­er­ally re­frained from com­ment­ing about the strikes for fear of trig­ger­ing a re­ac­tion and be­ing drawn into the fight­ing in Syria’s civil war.

Last Septem­ber, Is­raeli In­tel­li­gence Min­is­ter Is­rael Katz gave a rare in­sight into the coun­try’s Syria cam­paign. He said the mil­i­tary had car­ried out more than 200 strikes in Syria over the pre­ced­ing year and a half. It has been clear about prevent­ing the build-up of Ira­nian proxy forces near the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied Golan Heights and the trans­fer of mis­siles and equip­ment to the Tehran-backed Hezbol­lah.

Many of the strikes have been in the area south of Da­m­as­cus.

Only re­cently has Is­rael be­gun to speak pub­licly about thwart­ing the weapons ship­ments from Iran through Syria into Le­banon. Is­rael’s out­go­ing mil­i­tary chief, Lt Gen Gadi Eisenkot, did so at the week­end in var­i­ous in­ter­views.

In a New York Times in­ter­view pub­lished on Fri­day, Lt Gen Eisenkot – the man cred­ited with lead­ing Is­rael’s Syria cam­paign against Hezbol­lah and Iran – re­vealed the gov­ern­ment ap­proved his strat­egy in Jan­uary 2017 to in­crease air strikes in Syria.

Last year alone, he said, Is­rael’s air force dropped 2,000 bombs in Syria.

AFP

Syr­ian sol­diers hitch a lift on a tank be­ing trans­ported near the north­ern town of Man­bij

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu

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